How To Make Friends In The Workplace For Immigrants

Last Updated on November 9, 2018 by Estrella

When immigrants move to a new country, they may not know how to make friends in the workplace.  Maybe they are unsure about the customs.  Or they worry that co-workers may not understand their English.   This article offers some suggestions on how to make friends in the workplace.

In many countries, co-workers often do things together after work.    They go shopping together.  Go to movies together.  Visit each other in their home.  They become good friends.   In fact, one of my relatives had her closest co-workers as her bridesmaids at her wedding.

When I first started teaching ESL, some of my students were visiting contractors of big companies.  They told me how hard it was to make friends at work.   Co-workers stayed in their cubicle.   Some even eat lunch at their desk.    Hopefully,, those companies have improved in this area.   There are more and more companies today that create a space to encourage more interactions among employees.

Making friends at work

If you are relatively new to this area, and would like to make more friends at work, you might consider doing some of the following:

  • Share a lunch table in your company’s cafeteria.   When you ask to sit down, or when the other person asks to sit at your table, introduce yourself.  Ask which department they are in.   See if you know anyone in common.    (However, if they bring a book with the intention to read it, it would be a good idea to just say hello, smile, and stop there.)
  • Volunteer for projects that offer contact with many people.   Especially if you have to reach those in other departments.   Sure it is more work for you, but you might end up with more connections.    And you are expanding your professional network at the same time!   If there is a position opened in other departments, you may be the first to hear about it because of these connections.
  • Invite some co-workers to get together.   Choose a few colleagues that you like.   You might invite them over for Saturday lunch, to watch a football game, or to play video games.   If you are not comfortable having people over at your home, you can suggest going someplace after work.   Just say “A few of us are going out for a drink, would you like to join us?”   People like to be included.   Even if they can’t make it this time, you have built a warmer connection just by asking.
  • Bring some snacks to work.   There may be a specialty treat from your country that is also popular here.   If so, bring some to work and share them.  Sharing food is an easy way to build rapport.   It is an act of hospitality.   Who wouldn’t like that?
  • Introduce your culture to others.   There’s always at least one co-worker who loves to travel and learn about other cultures.   If you happen to like that person, consider inviting her to a cultural event.   Give her an insider view of your culture.   By doing this, you would have built a stronger bond.

If you discover other ways to make friends at work, please share them with me.

Here is another article that would help you in making friends.   How to make friends in a new country.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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